Health care becomes key issue at Obama Student Summit Campaign event

BY DORA GROTE | APRIL 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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It didn't take long for health care to become the topic of discussion at Tuesday's Greater Together Student Summit held by the Obama for America in downtown Iowa City.

"As college students, we are broke," said University of Iowa sophomore Ruaa Elkhair. "When we're insured on our parents' health care, it's not as hard on us. We have school and other expenses to worry about."

The event was part of the Obama campaign's effort to engage students in the upcoming November election. Iowa City is one of 11 stops at universities and colleges across the nation.

President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which included a provision allowing young adult's to stay on their parent's health insurance until 26 — helping 2.5 million young Americans nationwide.

Kal Penn, an Obama campaign co-chairman and actor who spoke at the summit Tuesday, said health-care reform is especially important for college students.

"It's actually critical for young folks, particularly those who are graduating college and looking to enter the workforce," Penn told The Daily Iowan. "What used to happen when you couldn't stay on your parents' plan and you were looking for a job was a huge cost differential, and people were going into debt."


However, Rep. Erik Helland, R-Johnston, said though it is difficult to break away from one's parents' health insurance, it's possible.

"As far as students go, I was one of those students," Helland said. "I graduated and I wasn't on my parents' health insurance. I had to go buy it, and it wasn't cheap, but there are options out there."

Helland said the Affordable Care Act is a misuse of federal power and policymakers need to focus on the nation as a whole.

"Students are really, really important; I just want to be clear we need to focus on the entire big picture and not one group, because you want to get them excited to vote," Helland said.

Penn said he first joined the campaign in 2008 because of tough medical decisions people are often forced to make.

"A buddy of mine was in community college and he couldn't afford eye glasses to see the board and textbooks both," Penn told the DI. "So he had to decide between buying eyeglasses to see the board or textbooks to study. And we all just thought that was ridiculous."

With the Supreme Court's current debate on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, health reform continues to be at the forefront of people's minds.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, recently posted a tweet calling Obama "stupid," following a statement in which he said it would be "unprecedented" for the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said she was disappointed in Grassley's response.

"It was beneath the dignity of Sen. Grassley's office and beneath Sen. Grassley," Dvorsky said at the summit. "In Iowa, we expect better. Social media broaden your [civil] discourse, and it's good, but it comes with a responsibility to self-edit."

At the summit, Obama organizers and students discussed education funding, jobs, and the economy.

Erin Seidler, Iowa communications director for Obama for America, said this form of outreach to young Americans is essential in maintaining support.

"We want to make sure we're getting all those young people back to polls," Seidler said. "Facebook, Twitter, word of mouth, students talking to students about stakes in this election, and bringing undecided students to events. That communication is key."

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